The Decision I've Made After Feeling Like Illness Became My Identity

I’m ready to distance myself from my chronic illness. I’m ready to be more than what it makes me. I’m ready to feel more compassionate towards other people, because I’m not so caught up in how hard or bad my own experiences have been. I’m ready, not to move one, but to move forward to what I can be. I am ready to be more.

I was young, just 13 years old, when I got ill. I was living a normal, middle class, suburban life, and was a pretty privileged person. This was the first and biggest hardship that I’d ever really had to face.

Illness was something, at 13, that was thrust upon me, right when I was, as an adolescent, starting to find an identity. For this reason, there isn’t really a clear divide between my identity, who I am, and my illness. I was too young to have much an identity yet when this was given to me, so, in a lot of ways, it became my identity.

I want there to be a divide.

I’m ready for my illness to a part from me, because it has helped shape who I have become. But I don’t want it to be all-consuming, and not what I define myself by.

I am ready to have conversations in which my illness is not relevant, opportunities that it’s not included in, and parts of my life where illness is not invited.

I am ready to be a writer, a feminist, daughter, a person who loves music and watches trash TV on weeknights. I am ready to introduce myself by my name, the things I love, and the things I do — not by the things that have happened to me.

I am ready to look after my health, go to doctors, scans, and tests when I need to, but I am ready for these things to be the secondary part of my life. I am ready for my real life to consist of chick flicks, books, cats, and days out. I am ready to experience the world.

I am ready to start living, where, up until now, I think I have only been existing. I am ready not to wallow in self pity, but to take my hardships and turn them into art, and take my experiences and turn them into fire. I am igniting the flames that will fuel my wonderful life.

I think that, maybe, I need a little bit of space and distance. Probably some silly mistakes, and perhaps even a little bit of pretending I am not ill, just so that illness can’t rule me. I want to learn who I am, what I want, and who I am supposed to be, without my illness serving so much as a defining factor. It’s time to look beyond it.

I’m not denying my illness, and nor am I ashamed of it, but I am more than it. It is not the first thing people should know about me. It should not make me any less compassionate to the hardships of others. It should not be the first thing I think of when I am forced to think about me. It is not the only, or the most important thing about me, and I’m trying to take the time I need to teach myself that, because I don’t think I’ve had the opportunity to realize it before.

You will find me doing the things my doctors said I’d never do again. I will be walking, despite the man who told me when I was 13 that I never would again. I will be smiling, and laughing, because I have reason to. I will be creating, because that is what I want to do. I will be living, and I will do so as unrestrained by illness as I possibly can be.

This will be a slow learning curve, but I committed. I am more than a sum of the things I have been through.

I will happily be defined as a person with disability/illness, but I don’t want to be identified by it anymore.

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